Dunvegan Thought Spot


In the research The Dunvegan Group conducts to support our CCR™ (Customer Care & Retention™) programs, we discover articles, blog posts and videos which, although not directly related to our work, are thought provoking or concern matters you may want to think about.  ‘Thought Spot’ covers a broad range of subjects.

The posts in ‘Thought Spot’ are selected by Olev Wain, Ph.D., VP of Research at The Dunvegan Group. 

We welcome your feedback!


Is Your Customer Care "Love Language" Working?

In addition to providing your clients or customers with the services they contracted for, keeping them is largely driven by demonstrating (in a way that is meaningful to them) that you appreciate or care about their business.  The approach you take is often different for each customer.

First, some back ground …

In 1995,  Gary Chapman published a book titled “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate”.  As Kris Gage summarized in her article titled “F--- The Golden Rule” on medium.com (December 16, 2017):

Over the course of thirty years as a relationship counselor, Chapman kept hearing one core problem over and over: one person would say they felt unloved by their partner, even while the other did everything they could think of to show it.

Digging deeper, Chapman realized that the fallout was in the specific words and gestures: one partner, for example, would dutifully do all of the chores around the house, keep the cars full of gas, and walk the dog each and every morning to show their love, and meanwhile all the other person was looking for was a hug or a kind word or a gift, largely oblivious to anything else.

Because what happens is that we not only have a preferred love language, but we are largely blind to or neutral on love communicated in the other four.

But, coming in without much else to work with, many of us tend to show love in the way we best recognize it. Which very likely isn’t how our partner recognizes it at all.

[W]e all default to our viewpoints and preferences, even though doing so is fundamentally selfish.

To place the foregoing quotation in a business context you may want to re-read it while substituting the words “appreciate” or “care” for the word “love”.

So, the Golden Rule (at least your interpretation of it) is based on your own preferences and the assumption that what works for you will be appreciated by your customers as well.

Instead, Kris Gage suggests using the Platinum Rule which is all about 'treating other people the way THEY wish to be treated'.

Now, I am not suggesting that you embark on a romantic or even personal relationship with your customers but there is an important lesson to be learned for your business relationships, particularly those where you have an ongoing,  long-term consultative relationship with your customers:

  • Retaining clients or customers entails knowing what they need and delivering against those criteria every day in your contact with them.

Determining what your customers need and how they wish to be treated is best accomplished by asking them what they value about your service and what they would like to have done differently for them  … AND THEN ACTING ON THIS INFORMATION.

Then keep the dialogue current so you can continue doing for them what they value and follow their suggestions as to what they would like to have done differently. 

At The Dunvegan Group, we combine customer feedback and the power of The Platinum Rule® to help you grow revenues by retaining customers and employees. We would love to start a conversation today!

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of Choreograph at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Hacking & Casinos – The New Frontier?

The technological advances in the video gaming industry have moved into the casino environment allowing it to not only expand beyond land-based casinos but also to redefine how traditional casino games are played.

Table games (e.g., Black Jack, Craps and Roulette) are now being played electronically with multiple games played simultaneously by one player at a single video screen with multiple windows, one for each game.  

Casinos are beginning to look more and more like video game arcades. This is not surprising since the traditional casino player is getting older and is being replaced by the younger millennials who have grown up in electronic/video environments.  Getting this demographic to come to land based casinos, as well as those that are online, requires a different approach that is electronically based.  And therein lies a problem for casinos.

As reported in Casino Journal in the February 2018 issue:

“When it comes to network security, casinos are often wide open to online attackers. That’s the basic finding of Bulletproof, a GLI company, which has completed network security assessments at more than 100 casinos.”

According to Bulletproof, individual casinos are not the primary targets for network hackers who primarily are looking for credit card information and personal health care data.  Most breaches have been for point-of-sale information in the retail environment. But given the increasing incidence of cyber-attacks, Bulletproof believes that all consumer facing businesses, including casinos, will be candidates for hacking.

According to Bulletproof, there are five areas of vulnerability specifically for casinos:

  • Patches for vulnerability in software do not always work; patches may break something unexpectedly, creating a new vulnerability

  • Shortcuts to user management and access controls, such as simple or shared passwords make it easier for attackers to steal data.

  • Ineffective logging and alerting. Casinos are more likely to be monitoring system ‘events’ and errors rather than game transaction logs that could flag a breach.

  • Social engineering attacks. These are scare tactics, and threats of financial loss, targeted at individuals within a gaming enterprise using Phishing and Malware attacks with ransomware folded into the mix.

  • Industry misconceptions. The majority of gaming regulators focus on fairness of a casino game and accounting.  Network or IT security is very seldom their focus.  Anything that is not specifically required of a casino operator or vendor of casino games “will not be implemented because development,compliance testing and certification is expensive.”

These concerns are not only those of casino operators.  Looking at these five areas of vulnerability may cause you to take another look at IT security and network security practices in your own business.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of mipan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Relevant link : www.casinojournal.com

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Recovering Your Attention Span

As an avid reader in my youth I was able to attend to a book for several hours. Now I have noticed that with longer reads, more than 4000 words, my attention sometimes begins to wander.

Most people I know do more and more of their reading online, on their phone or tablet; many now do so exclusively while others still subscribe to paper copies of magazines and books. I am in the latter group.  

There have been numerous articles written about the general decrease in people’s attention spans with some authors pointing out that most people have the attention span of a gold fish; so, a shrinking attention span is not unique to me.

The distractions of the 0n-line world we live in have been blamed for this.

In a Globe & Mail article on February 9 2018, Michael Harris (Author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) wrote:

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn't. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I'm being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix.

Out for dinner with another writer, I said, "I think I've forgotten how to read.”

"Yes!" he replied, pointing his knife. "Everybody has."

"No, really," I said. "I mean I actually can't do it any more."

He nodded: "Nobody can read like they used to. But nobody wants to talk about it."

He continues by observing:

When we become cynical readers – when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages – we stop exercising our attention.

It’s nice to know that one is not alone in experiencing this problem!

I suppose, as with most skills or abilities, physical or otherwise, you ‘lose it if you don’t use it’ (how’s that for an original thought!).

There are several things I now do to ‘re-learn how to read’ lengthier material and maintain a longer attention span:

  • I first ask myself why I am reading the material (a book/story/essay/point-of-view), and what I expect to learn from it. This provides me with a focal point for coalescing the content/learning.

  • Then, I get rid of all distractions. If not already in print form, I print the material so that I have no access to clickable links, advertisements or other distracting material. This also allows me to make notes alongside the text (how cool is that?).

  • I read the material in a venue other than my office [usually another room where there is no computer (e.g., email, twitter or IM) or other distractions].

  • To lose track of time, I divide the number of words in the material I am reading by 250 (which is about average reading speed per minute for most people) and set a timer for that number of minutes. I usually finish before it rings.

This discipline helps with sustaining my concentration when reading material that is longer than about 4000 words. I am getting better at it.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of duncan1890 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Back to “Going to The Office”

In the November 2017 issue of theatlantic.com, Jamie Cullen wrote about the nascent return of remote office workers to centralized physical offices – not because employers want to ‘see them working’ but because some collaborative tasks are better performed when everyone is in the same physical space where they can see one another and use multiple/different forms of communication.

First some background …

Cullen explains that the move to a remote workforce had its beginnings in 1979 at IBM when remote terminals were set up in the homes of five employees to allow for easier and quicker access to their mainframe computer at the Santa Teresa Laboratory in Silicon Valley.

By 1983, a total of 2,000 IBM employees were working from home; by 2009 this number had increased to 154,000, representing 40% of IBM’s global workforce of 386,000 employees.

Early in the process of decentralizing, IBM realized that it could save millions by de-centralizing and selling some of its buildings, in addition to saving on employee commuting time and gaining access to talent that would not move to work at a central location.   The corporation was instrumental in leading its customers along the path of developing office-less company structures and cultures.

Then, in 2013, Yahoo reversed its policy of having employees work remotely and suffered a great deal of criticism from both its employees and industry observers.   Aetna and Best Buy were also criticized for starting to bring their employees back to central work locations.

Despite these criticisms, in March of 2017, IBM announced its decision to start bringing employees back to physical offices.

There are many good arguments both for and against having a remote workforce – often, the findings of research-based arguments are contradictory.

Nevertheless, the key reason for re-centralizing the work force seems to be ‘collaborative efficiency’, meaning that some kinds of tasks are best performed in an environment where people are in close physical proximity and can see each other, and decisions can be reached quickly.  It seems that some types of problems can be more speedily solved in such an environment.

As Cullen summarized in his article:

Collaboration requires communication. And the communications technology offering the fastest, cheapest, and highest-bandwidth connection is—for the moment, anyway—still the office.

In 1979, when business moved at a more stately pace …  IBM could decide what to build, plan how to build it, and count on its customers to accept what it finally built at the end of a months-long process.

Today, in the age of the never-ending software update, business is more like a series of emergencies that need to be approached  … . You diagnose a problem, deliver a quick-and-dirty solution, get feedback, course-correct, and repeat, always with an eye on the changing [business environment].

My company, The Dunvegan Group, has maintained a working model combining remote workers as well as workers in a centralized location. Where a person works is a function of their personal requirements as well as the requirement for face-to-face collaboration on some projects. 

‘Remote’ or ‘Centralized’ is not the question, but rather what is the ideal mix for both the company and the individual?

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of Choreograph at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related link: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/11/when-working-from-home-doesnt-work/540660/

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Guidelines for Bucket Lists

The 2007 movie “Bucket List”, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, popularized the expression “It’s on my bucket list”.  Nicholson and Freeman played two terminally ill men who escaped from a cancer ward and went on a trip to fulfill their wish-list of things they would like to do before they died.

Among other things, they go sky diving together, drive a Shelby Mustang, visit the Taj Mahal in India and ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China. 

Whenever I ask people about their bucket lists I get one of three general types of reactions.

In the first (and largest) group are people who have compiled bucket lists of activities they would like to experience or places they would like to visit.  They are more likely to enumerate visceral experiences, those based on deep feelings and emotional reactions (e.g., skydiving or motorcycling) rather than on reason or thought.

The second group is comprised of people who reject the notion of a bucket list and believe they should focus on things they have accomplished and feel proud of, rather than creating yet another ‘to-do’ list which, according to some, will degenerate into a list of things they are reminded of that they have failed to do.

The third and smallest group, is characterized by people who are working on NOT doing things that clutter their lives, and concentrate on those that give them a sense of fulfillment or pleasure in the present.

Yet when all three groups are asked to articulate what really matters to them in life, they are often at a loss. What are your articles of faith? Where do you find your personal statement of what is important to you? 

I have a suggestion.

In his 1925 novel “The Painted Veil” Somerset Maugham wrote “One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul.” 

So … now we know WHERE to find meaning in life, but will we be able to recognize it when we stumble across it?  I have an idea that might help.

I do not recall the origins of the following quotation: “Nothing clarifies a man’s thinking more than the prospect of imminent death.”  I am not suggesting you place yourself in a life-threatening situation in the hopes this will clarify your thinking to the point that you can articulate what really matters to you. 

But the prospect of impending death does give one reason to pause and reflect about one’s life.  So, the answer may reside with those who realize they are coming to the ends of their lives.

In her book “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying” Bronnie Ware does not mention visceral activities such as not going white water kayaking or bungee jumping, as one of the regrets.

As summarized in a 1 February 2017 article on the Guardian.com, these are the five regrets people are most likely to have as they are approaching the ends of their lives.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.”

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.

Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

I suggest you review these five regrets, as articulated by people who are close to death, as a starting point in defining what is important to you, as well as identifying meaningful activities supporting what is of greatest importance to you.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of AntonioGuillem at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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DNA Hacking – It’s Here!

Andy Greenwood made the following observations in his August 10 2017 article on wired.com titled “Biohackers Encoded Malware In A Strand of DNA” (excerpt):

When biologists synthesize DNA, they take pains not to create or spread a dangerous stretch of genetic code that could be used to create a toxin or, worse, an infectious disease.

But one group of biohackers has demonstrated how DNA can carry a less expected threat—one designed to infect not humans nor animals but computers.

In new research they plan to present at the USENIX Security conference on Thursday, a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer.

While that attack is far from practical for any real spy or criminal, it's one the researchers argue could become more likely over time, as DNA sequencing becomes more commonplace, powerful, and performed by third-party services on sensitive computer systems.

And, perhaps more to the point for the cybersecurity community, it also represents an impressive, sci-fi feat of sheer hacker ingenuity.

“We know that if an adversary has control over the data a computer is processing, it can potentially take over that computer,” says Tadayoshi Kohno, the University of Washington computer science professor who led the project, comparing the technique to traditional hacker attacks that package malicious code in web pages or an email attachment.

“That means when you’re looking at the security of computational biology systems, you’re not only thinking about the network connectivity and the USB drive and the user at the keyboard but also the information stored in the DNA they’re sequencing. It’s about considering a different class of threat.”

For now, that threat remains more of a plot point in a Michael Crichton novel than one that should concern computational biologists.

But as genetic sequencing is increasingly handled by centralized services—often run by university labs that own the expensive gene sequencing equipment—that DNA-borne malware trick becomes ever so slightly more realistic.

Especially given that the DNA samples come from outside sources, which may be difficult to properly vet.

If hackers did pull off the trick, the researchers say they could potentially gain access to valuable intellectual property, or possibly taint genetic analysis like criminal DNA testing.

Companies could even potentially place malicious code in the DNA of genetically modified products, as a way to protect trade secrets, the researchers suggest.

"There are a lot of interesting—or threatening may be a better word—applications of this coming in the future," says Peter Ney, a researcher on the project.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of monsitj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Millennials and Entrepreneurs – A Common Thread

In a previous post, I wrote that Millennials had more in common with previous generations than not.

A couple of weeks later I ran across an article by Sue Hawkes on eosworldwide.com on August 7 2017 titled “Top 5 Traits Millennials Share With Entrepreneurs” in which she outlined the common elements (edited version):

When I stopped to think about the common millennial characteristics we hear about so often, I realized how many of those same traits are also prevalent among entrepreneurs.

How we outwardly demonstrate these traits may look different, but at the core our values are shared. I believe this is an opportunity for tremendous results if managed from a place of shared values and effective communication.

Too often, we get bogged down by the way we’ve categorized others – in this case an entire generation.

As a result, the differences become all we see.

Let's begin instead from the common ground we share, while still acknowledging and appreciating the differences. Only then will we begin to gracefully communicate through the tough stuff and fully realize the value we all bring to the table.

Common Characteristics

These are the top five attributes shared by millennials and entrepreneurs. Imagine beginning your exploration from one of these vantage points:

1. They desire to change the world

Both millennials and entrepreneurs are driven by a higher purpose. They want to change the world and are concerned about issues facing our communities and the planet as a whole.

Because they have been globally connected their entire lives, millennials are aware of the challenges that need solutions.

Like entrepreneurs, they are civic-oriented. They want to make a big dent in the universe and believe they have the ability to do so.

2. They want to design life on their terms

Millennials often get labeled as entitled for desiring to set their own hours, to have flexibility to work from home and to be judged on results, not on the time spent doing their work.

They do not believe in a clear distinction between work and home life, choosing instead to integrate the two. They bring their lives to work and their work back home to their lives. 

Entrepreneurs also function this way, wanting the freedom to make their own rules, set their own schedule, and create a career that fits the way they want to live their life.

What entrepreneurs know that millennials may not yet realize is that this lifestyle is not easy. People who design their own life will often work longer and harder than people who choose a more traditional 8:00 am - 4:00 pm corporate career. Both groups do so willingly because they desire freedom – or the illusion of it!

3. They value relationships

The best business is done with those we know well, enjoy spending time with, like and trust. Millennials and entrepreneurs realize this, and often do business with friends or become friends with their clients.

Again, there is no separation between “work colleagues” and “friends.” Because the lines are blurred, doing business is easier.

They also value the importance of relationships and enjoy investing in them. Most millennials and entrepreneurs place relationships above money or being right. Millennials are team-oriented and build relationships with colleagues; entrepreneurs are expert networkers and connectors of people and opportunities.

4. They don’t accept the status quo

Neither millennials nor entrepreneurs enjoy following rules just for the sake of following rules, especially if they themselves didn’t make the rules.

They will ask why things are done the way they are, how things could be improved.

They often challenge the existing structure if it doesn’t make sense to them or move to innovate a new, better solution.

Neither are satisfied with the status quo, and both dislike rules if they don’t see the meaning behind them.

Both groups are progressive thinkers, work to make things better, and see opportunities where others see obstacles.

5. They have an insatiable hunger to learn

Millennials are the most educated generation in history, and entrepreneurs are life-long learners.

Both groups are eager to learn new things and master the skills that will help them improve and succeed.

Appreciation for non-traditional learning is also common in both groups, whether it be through travel, self-teaching methods or apprenticeships.

By continuously expanding their knowledge and skill set, millennials and entrepreneurs use new learning to innovate, create new opportunities, and grow.

Find Common Ground

Millennials and entrepreneurs share many traits.

What’s different, however, is the communication around them and how they are expressed in action.

To work better together and capitalize on this common ground, it’s important that we focus on our shared values, moving beyond generalizations and negative connotations of any group of people while remaining open and curious. We have more to gain by working together than we do by gathering frustration with how different we are.

How can we move from seeing the barriers between us to a place of common ground and opportunity?

Begin with conversations; courageous, open-minded, open-ended conversations that expand what each person brings and maximizes that in concert with the others present. 

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of StockPhotoAstur at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Are Millennials Getting A ‘Bum Rap’? Consider These Facts!

In an interview in December 2016, Simon Sinek said the following about millennials:

Apparently, millennials as a group of people, which are those born fromapproximately 1984 and after, are tough to manage. They are accused of being entitled and narcissistic, self interested, unfocused and lazy - but entitled is the big one.

We all know some millennials who fit this profile, but is it true that most of them are like this? And what about previous generations – weren’t there some people who also had this profile?

Writing on bbc.com on 16 July 2017, in an article titled ‘Why the millennial stereotype is wrong”, Jessica Holland brought some interesting data to the table:

Type “millennials are” into a Google search bar, and you’ll find that “lazy” comes up as one of the top three autocompletes.

The common perception is that members of the generation born between the early 1980s and late 1990s are easily bored, crave instant gratification and would rather hop from gig to gig than stay with one company throughout their working lives. Not exactly dream employees, in other words.

But comprehensive studies in both the US and UK this year have shown the opposite is the case. It turns out, millennials are just as committed as their elders were at the same age, if not more so. What’s more, they’re not being rewarded for that loyalty.

British think tank the Resolution Foundation reported in February that only one in 25 UK millennials was switching jobs each year during their mid-twenties.

Members of the preceding generation, known as Generation X, were found to be twice as likely to keep switching employers at the same age – a good thing for them, financially speaking. Job-hopping tends to come with a pay rise of about 15% with each move, as well as the opportunity for workers to learn new skills and determine which kind employers are a good fit for them.

Meanwhile, pay rises for those who stay with one company for the long term have dwindled to almost nothing, according to the Resolution Foundation report.

The trend is evident, not just in the UK, but elsewhere.

In April, the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan “fact tank” based in Washington, DC, published similar findings, drawn from US Department of Labor data. The report found that American workers aged 18 to 35 were just as likely to stick with their employers as their older counterparts in Generation X were when they were young adults. And among those with college degrees, millennials were found to have longer track records with their employers than Generation X workers did when they were the same age.

“The economic evidence is pretty clear,” says Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation and one of the authors of the report on UK millennials’ decreasing job mobility. “Young people have always changed jobs more than older people, but it’s definitely the case that the rate of mobility has fallen – for young people particularly quickly, although it’s fallen for everyone.”

The fact that young people are job-hopping less, she adds, is “a big determinant of why, for the first time in living memory, young people are earning no more now than previous generations were at the same age 15 years before.”

Changing times

Neither report gives concrete answers about why job mobility has decreased among young people. Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, wrote in his summary of the data on Pew’s Fact Tank blog, that it may be “due to a dearth of opportunities to get a better job with a different employer.”

Gardiner, meanwhile, points out that young people may be less willing to take risks having come of age during the financial crisis. There’s also the rise of zero-hours contracts and agency work, and the fact that a shift is happening in Britain “to a service economy from a manufacturing economy.” All this, she says, “may have reduced people’s confidence or bargaining power.”

According to researchers at Deloitte, which publishes an annual survey of millennial attitudes, recent political and social instability in the developed world has made young people’s desire for security even more pronounced in just the last 12 months.

The 2017 survey, for which 8,000 millennials were interviewed worldwide, shows that millennials in developed countries are less willing now to leave their jobs within two years, and more eager to stay for five or more years, than they were a year ago. “Our data suggests that these uncertain times might be driving a desire among millennials for greater stability,” the report reads.

Against this backdrop – fewer long-term jobs that come with regular pay rises, more anxiety due to experience of the global financial crash, and more worries about the future – millennials are also hitting the age at which they’re making plans to buy houses, get married and have kids.

In 2015, millennial women accounted for just over eight in 10 US births, according to Gretchen Livingston at the Pew Research Center, so it’s unsurprising that this group is focusing on their financial stability.

Desires and stereotypes

Stereotypes about millennials suggest they’re not interested in old-fashioned markers of success.  But when it comes to the fundamental desire for these basic anchors – a home, retirement savings, a decent career, a family – “there’s strikingly little difference between the generations,” Gardiner says.

Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego, California and author of What Millennials Want from Work agrees. “I don't see different values among the generations,” she says. “They may have different ways of expressing their values, but what they want in life and work is pretty similar.”

With house prices rising, and university education getting more expensive in many countries, these goals are out of reach for many millennials. That’s another possible contributing factor for this generation’s desire to stay rooted with one employer.

Seven in 10 millennials living in mature economies, according to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, would prefer to be in full-time employment, rather than freelance work, and the reasons most often given for this preference are “job security” and a “fixed income.”

“Perspectives among young people have changed since the 1970s,” Deal says; “the world has changed.” But the lament that young people lack commitment is a “typical stereotype of young people. We saw the same stereotyping of Gen Xers when they were new to the workforce.”

If anything is holding millennials back, the evidence suggests, it may be the unprecedented environment in which they find themselves, and not their attitudes to work.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Learning To Love Your Cobot!

Wikipedia defines “A cobot or co-robot (from collaborative robot) [as] a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots, designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance, which is what most industrial robots were up until the decade of the 2010s.”

Writing on Investment U Plus on Wednesday July 19, 2017, Matthew Carr, Emerging Trends Strategist for The Oxford Club, writes (edited version):

While U.S. manufacturing output continues to hit record highs, the total number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has declined by 30% in the past couple of decades.

People are being replaced by machines. And it's going to only pick up speed.

In North America last year, businesses ordered 35,000 robots. That was a 10% increase over 2015.

Of those robots purchased, the automotive sector accounted for 20,000. Not that long ago, 80% of the work that went into manufacturing a car was done by humans. Today, 80% of that work is done by robots.

What we've seen over the last couple of years is a swift uptake in job automation. We hit a tipping point, and the speed will only increase.

In 2015, the money spent globally on robots was $71 billion. By 2019, spending is expected to total $135.4 billion. And we'll see a compound annual growth rate of 17%.

In 2015, sales of robots jumped 15%. This was the biggest increase recorded in a single year.

According to the International Federation of Robotics and the Swiss robotics company ABB, the global population of working robots today is 1.2 million. It's projected to increase to 2.6 million by 2019.

Over the next decade, the population of industrial robots is projected to increase 300% in the U.S. And worldwide shipments of industrial robots will triple by 2025.

It's easy to see why. Back in 2010, an industrial robot cost an average of $150,000.

By 2015, the average cost declined by 83% to $25,000.

At the same time, there's been a push for higher minimum wages for human workers, as well as demand from companies to increase efficiencies, productivity and reduce costs to remain competitive.

Today, it's not just manufacturing jobs that are set to be replaced by automation and robots.

For example, there are multiple "burger bots" on the market.

Once again, demand, the need for better efficiencies and productivity, and the opportunity to reduce costs are the big drivers.

Last year, the top burger chains in the world notched $75.5 billion in sales.

At the same time, restaurant worker turnover hit an all-time high of 113%.

Momentum Machines' "burger bot" can produce 400 burgers per hour. It's fully autonomous. It slices toppings, grills patties, and can assemble and bag a finished burger.

It could potentially replace two to three full-time line cooks. The savings to a restaurant is estimated to be $90,000 per year in training, salaries and overhead costs.

On the other side of the table is Miso Robotics' "Flippy" burger bot.

Flippy is what's called a collaborative robot - or a "cobot." It's designed to work with people. The robot is driven by an AI system, so it can constantly learn and adapt. And its job is simply to be a line cook. It cooks burgers and plates them on a bun, but it leaves the finishing touches for humans.

Flippy will begin rolling out to 50 CaliBurger locations starting in 2018.

Now, cobots, like Flippy and ABB's YuMi, are potentially one of the biggest automation-related markets. Right now, cobots account for 5% of the global robot population.

But that market is expected to grow from $100 million to $3 billion by 2020. And an MIT study recently found that human-robot teams were 85% more productive than either alone.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 90% of jobs can't be fully automated. That means that humans and robots will increasingly need to work together. And ironically, ABB is having to hire three people per day to meet the rising demand for its robots.

Are you ready for your 'new-best-friend' the cobot?

Your thoughts?

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Obesity – Worse Than Smoking? Probably!

Writing on Mercola.com on June 28, 2017, Dr. Mercola summarized statistics on obesity. The numbers are eye-opening!

According to research published in 2013, 1 in 5 American deaths is associated with obesity, and the younger you are, the greater obesity's influence on your mortality.

Considering one-third of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are now overweight or obese, chronic disease and mortality rates will likely climb dramatically in coming decades as the health of these youths begins to fail.

Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., the rate of obese teens has quadrupled from 5 to 20.5 percent, and nearly 9 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are now obese.

As of 2014, the obesity rate among adults over 20 was just shy of 38 percent, costing the U.S. medical system $190 billion annually.

In December 2011, severe obesity was included as a qualifying disability under the American With Disabilities Act, further raising the cost of obesity on society as a whole.

Being overweight during pregnancy also increases the risk of birth defects, recent research warns, and the more obese the mother, the greater the risk.

More than half of all Americans also struggle with chronic illness - a truly shocking statistic when you consider modern health care is supposed to be the best mankind has ever been privy to. It really says a lot about the influence lifestyle wields on your health, and the price we pay for convenience.

Data collected from tens of thousands of Canadians confirms obesity surpasses smoking in terms of creating ill health, and Dutch researchers recently predicted obesity and inactivity will overtake smoking as a leading cause of cancer deaths specifically.

Processed foods shoulder the greatest blame for this trend. Many children are raised on fast food from the time they're able to eat solid foods, and are given sugary sodas and juices at even younger ages.

The vast majority of people on the planet who eat a primarily processed food diet are burning carbohydrates as their primary fuel, which has the devastating effect of shutting down your body's ability to burn fat.

This is why obesity is so prevalent, and why so many find it nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off.

Your thoughts?

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Ocean Trash and Space Junk – Which Is Worse?

We are all aware of the amount of trash, mostly plastic, that has accumulated in the world’s oceans.

In January 2015, National Geographic reported that (edited):

There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.

Though scientists know a great deal about the damage to marine life caused by large pieces of plastic, the potential harm caused by micro plastics is less clear. What effect do they have on fish that consume them?

These micro plastics can come in the form of microbeads that have been used in exfoliating products and toothpaste (now banned in Canada and the US), often described as rinse-off cosmetics.

These microbeads range from 10 microns to 1 millimeter in size; to put this in perspective, a human hair is about 100 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth of a millimeter.

There is public awareness of ocean trash but the public’s awareness of space junk and its implications is almost non-existent.

Wikipedia describes space junk as (edited):

Space debris, junk, waste, trash, or litter is the collection of defunct man-made objects in space – old satellites, spent rocket stages, and fragments from disintegration, erosion, and collisions – including those caused by debris itself. As of December 2016 there have been 5 satellite collisions with space waste.

There is cause to be concerned about the amount of space junk orbiting the Earth. Wikipedia continues:

The Kessler syndrome, proposed by the NASA  scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.

One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges infeasible for many generations.

Think about the communications satellites (e.g., those used for telephone and internet communication) that would be threatened when junk, travelling at speeds in excess of 17,000 kilometers an hour, crosses the satellites’ orbital paths. At such high speeds objects as small as half an inch across have the potential for demolishing a large satellite

Seeing is believing, so why don’t you watch the 11-minute video called “Adrift” describing this junk yard above our heads:


Should we be as concerned about space junk as we are about ocean trash? I think so!

Your thoughts?

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Old Diseases Are Emerging from The Arctic

Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are rising rapidly.

In the summer months, the permafrost is melting to depths greater than the usual 20 inches.

With the Arctic ice cap in retreat, Russia’s northern coast is experiencing an upsurge in economic activity with new mining and drilling operations.

There is concern that infectious agents will be released.

This has already happened.

Writing on bbc.com on May 4 2017, Jasmin Fox-Kelly observed:

Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases.

Drilling and mining activity is also exposing material that has been frozen for thousands of years. Many pathogens have survived in a frozen state and have been shown to be resistant to modern antibiotics.

Should we be worried?

There are two schools of thought (edited).

One argument is that the risk from permafrost pathogens is inherently unknowable, so they should not overtly concern us.

Instead, we should focus on more established threats from climate change. For instance, as the Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.

The alternative perspective is that we should not ignore risks just because we cannot quantify them.

There is now a non-zero probability that pathogenic microbes could be revived, and infect us.

How likely that is, is not known, but it's a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn't been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared.

Your thoughts?

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3D Printing – What Are The Current Limits?

 What is 3D printing? 

3dprinting.com describes it as:

 The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is for instance a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. This CAD file is created using a 3D modeling application or with a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). A 3D scanner can make a 3D digital copy of an object.

Much has been written about the promise of 3D printing or manufacturing; however, there are practical and economic limits.

Writing on hbr.org (Harvard Business Review) on 23 June 2015, Matthias Holweg points out some limitations:

3D printing simply works best in areas where customization is key — from printing hearing aids and dental implants to printing a miniature of the happy couple for their wedding cake.

Using a combination of 3D scanning and printing, implants can be customized to specific anatomic circumstances in a way that was simply not feasible beforehand.

However, we also know that 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization. In these cases, 3D printing has to compete with scale-driven manufacturing processes and rather efficient logistics operations.

The simple fact is that when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive.

A second point often overlooked is the labor cost that remains. Counter to common perception, 3D printing does not happen “at the touch of a button”; it involves considerable pre- and post-processing, which incur non-trivial labor costs.

Printing metal parts also remains a challenge. As David Rotman explained on technologyreview.com on 25 April 2017:

Making metal objects using 3-D printing is difficult for several reasons. Most obvious is the high temperature required for processing metals.

The most common way to print plastics involves heating polymers and squirting the material out the printer nozzle; the plastic then quickly hardens into the desired shape.

The process is simple enough to be used in 3-D printers that sell for around $1,000.

But building a 3-D printer that directly extrudes metals is not practical, given that aluminum melts at 660 °C, high-carbon steel at 1,370 °C, and titanium at 1,668 °C.

Metal parts also have to go through several high-temperature processes to ensure the expected strength and other mechanical properties.

Advances are currently being made in creating metal components using 3D laser-driven printing but the technologies are very expensive and slow compared to conventional manufacturing.

Nevertheless, 3D printing holds great promise.

Photoshop, for example, became commercially available in 1990 and has improved immeasurably in a quarter century.

I think 3D printing, particularly when creating metal objects, will see improvements at least as great as with Photoshop.

Your thoughts?

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Our Hackable World: At What Cost?

Hardly a week goes by without our reading about a serious data breach at a large corporation or government agency.

Financial institutions are also experiencing theft of funds through hacking. For example, Wikipedia reports that in February 2016 the central bank of Bangladesh had $101 million withdrawn from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and transferred to fictitious accounts around the world.

Although most of this money was not recovered, the situation could have been worse.

A $20 million transfer to Sri Lanka was blocked only because someone in one of the routing banks in the global SWIFT network for transferring funds saw a spelling error in the documentation and sounded the alarm. Otherwise this transfer would have gone through to the fictitious recipient.

You have to wonder about the vulnerability of systems for handling data and the transfer of money. Part of the explanation of how systems can be hacked is in how they are built.

The Economist Magazine on April 8 2017 explained:

Modern computer chips are typically designed by one company, manufactured by another and then mounted on circuit boards built by third parties next to other chips from yet more firms.

A further firm writes the lowest-level software necessary for the computer to function at all. The operating system that lets the machine run particular programs comes from someone else.

The programs themselves come from someone else again.

A mistake at any stage, or in the links between any two stages, can leave the entire system faulty—or vulnerable to attack.

Errors are also made in writing source code, which are the instructions that are compiled by a computer before executing a program. Even at a low error rate of one line in 1000, 1 billion lines of source code can initially have 1 million lines containing an error.

Getting each of those lines to interact properly with the rest of the program they are in, and with whatever other pieces of software and hardware that program might need to talk to, is a task that no one can get right first time.

Any of these errors, if detected, could potentially be exploited by a hacker.

According to the Cybersecurity Business Report on August 22 2016, the global cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021.

The cybercrime cost prediction includes damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.

There are other costs not factored into this estimate; costs associated with the impact that fear, stress and anxiety have on those directly and indirectly affected by the crime

As an example, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for the US government, which manages information files for the civil service, was hacked some time before 2015.

This security breach involved over 21 million victims who had applied for government security clearances and who had undergone extensive background investigation … including names of family members, spouses and friends. All of this data was accessed by hackers.

In addition, the fingerprint files of 5.6 million federal employees were hacked … many of these employees have access to classified material and facilities and use their fingerprints as identification.

What price do we put on the fear, stress and anxiety these people experience in not knowing if or when or how this data will be used to exploit any vulnerabilities they have?

Your thoughts?

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Re-invent Your Business – Just Like The French Foreign Legion Did, Twice In Its History

As the circumstances or the environment your business operates in change, you must think about repositioning or re-inventing your company so it remains relevant to your customers’ changing needs.

This is precisely what the French Foreign Legion (FFL) did after the First World War and again in the 1960’s after participating in an attempted coup-d’état against French President Charles de Gaulle.

But first some background . . .

Founded in 1831, the French Foreign Legion was created for foreign nationals who were willing to undertake military service on behalf of France.

Paradoxically, the Legionnaires’ loyalty has always been to the Legion and NOT to France.

The original purpose of the FFL was to militarily protect and expand the French colonial empire in the 19th century.

The popular and lingering view of the FFL is the one depicted in the 1939 movie ‘Beau Geste’ starring Gary Cooper where men in blue uniforms are marching through the desert in North Africa when not fighting the enemy.

Many of these men had apparently joined the Legion to escape the long arm of the law in their native country or because of various personal problems in their private lives.

During the First World War, the FFL fought on many fronts but by the end of the war there was serious consideration being given to disbanding the Legion because of the high casualty rate they suffered during the war . . . there were not many of them left.

For the Legion to survive, a way had to be found to encourage enlistment.

As Robert Twiggers described the situation on aeon.com (edited):

Colonel Paul-Frédéric Rollet came to their rescue. He understood that, instead of offering a sanctuary for runaway convicts, legionnaires needed a new myth of belonging and self-sacrifice.

Rollet was a military genius who understood the inner symbolism of such things as heroic defeats, odd uniforms and lost limbs. For example, Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, one of Britain’s most decorated officers and Admiral Horatio Nelson were missing hands or arms.  

Suggestively, Paul Rollet went into battle with just a rolled umbrella. He believed that a commander showed lack of faith in his men if he needed to be armed, and besides, it distracted from his real task of inspiring his soldiers to fight.

That Rollet seized on the heroic defeat of the Legion at Camarón fighting the Mexican Army in 1863, is no accident: men brought up to accept death and mutilation as the price for never being forgotten by their uber-family (the Legion) are stronger than those bribed with the comforting notions of victory and glory.

Rollet knew that an army doesn’t march on its feet, or even its stomach. It marches on the stories it tells itself. So he made sure that the Legion was full of traditions and stories and rituals.

He also turned a few marching songs into full-blown anthems. However tough, legionnaires must learn to sing with gusto the songs of former warriors.

Other armies don’t really do this, nor do the officers bring the men breakfast once a year (on Camarón Day, of course).

This action alone mimics a family in its concern. Every Legion memoir (and they are legion), however much it complains of bullying or incompetence, mentions with heartfelt gratitude the songs and traditions imbibed alongside the forced marches.

Fast forward to 1961 . . . when the FFL’s First Paratroop Regiment participated in the failed coup-d’état to overthrow French President Charles de Gaulle. The First Para’s were disbanded in the following months.

Robert Twiggers continues:

The coup attempt brought to the surface the troubled relationship between France and its Foreign Legion. The French admire it and yet don’t quite trust it.

Another re-invention was required.

This time, the solution was truly bold: to turn the Legion into an elite force, a strike force, the kind that could easily put down a coup, or stage one in another country.

The un-disgraced 2nd Parachute Regiment [who did not participate in the attempted coup in 1961] became the ‘Young Lions’ of this newly created force.

Given our rapidly evolving business climate, is it time to re-invent your company to better serve your customers’ needs?

Your thoughts?

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Solving The Enigma of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As defined by technopedia.com (edited):

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include:

  • Speech and image recognition
  • Learning
  • Planning
  • Problem solving

Whatis.com defines machine learning as (edited):

A type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.

Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can change when exposed to new data. 

The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining. Both systems search through data to look for patterns.

However, instead of extracting data for human comprehension -- as is the case in data mining applications -- machine learning uses that data to detect patterns in data and adjust program actions accordingly.

Writing on theverge.com on October 10 2016, James Vincent observed that (edited):

While companies like Google are confidently pronouncing that we live in an AI age with machine learning breaking new ground in areas like speech and image recognition, those at the front lines of AI research are keen to point out that there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Just because we have digital assistants that sound like the talking computers in movies doesn’t mean we’re much closer to creating true artificial intelligence.

One problem is the lack of insight we have into how these systems work in the first place and how they reach their conclusions.

A good demonstration of this problem comes from an experiment at Virginia Tech. Researchers created what is essentially an eye tracking system which records which pixels of an image an artificial intelligence agent looks at first.

The researchers showed the artificial intelligence (AI) agent pictures of a bedroom and asked it: "What is covering the windows?"

They found that instead of looking at the windows, the AI agent looked at the floor. Then, if it found a bed, it gave the answer "there are curtains covering the windows."

This happened to be right, but only because of the limited data the network had been trained on.

Based on the pictures it had been shown, the AI agent had concluded that if it was in a bedroom there would be curtains on the windows.

So when it saw a bed, it stopped looking — it had, in its eyes, seen curtains. Logical, of course, but also daft. A lot of bedrooms don’t have curtains!

Understanding how these AI agents work is critical because otherwise decisions can be made for which no one understands the reasons.

Writing on technologyreview.com on March 14 2017, Will Knight concludes:

Explainability isn’t just important for justifying decisions. It can help prevent things from going wrong.

An image classification system that has learned to focus purely on texture for cat classification might be fooled by a furry rug. 

So offering an explanation could help researchers make their systems more robust, and help prevent those who rely on them from making mistakes.  

Your thoughts?

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Reversal Thinking & Innovation - Circular Airport Runways

Process reversal can lead to innovation.

Reversal thinking essentially involves reframing a process by thinking about it ‘backwards’.

A good example is how we print documents . . . the paper moves through the stationary printer.

Alternatively, the printer could move across a stationary sheet of paper while it prints. This is exactly what ZUtA Labs did when they developed their first mini-robotic pocket printer which is about the size of a hockey puck and twice as thick.

A second example involves what is commonly known as 3-D printing or additive manufacturing, which is the reverse of subtractive manufacturing.

An example of subtractive manufacturing is when a piece of steel has portions of it removed to create a blade for a gas turbine engine. This blade can also be created through an additive process where material is added layer-by-layer (i.e., 3-D printed).

A third example involves airport design and runway layout. When planes land, they do so on runways that have been laid out to take into account the usual direction of the winds to maximize the probability of an airplane landing into headwinds.

From time to time there are crosswinds, which if severe, can cause the airport to cease operations or require airplanes to make their approaches flying almost sideways or at an angle to the runway.

In a make-believe-world it would be ideal to make movable runways so that pilots can always make their landing approaches and take-offs directly into headwinds.

One way of accomplishing this would be to build a circular runway which is 2.2 miles in diameter. Work on this concept has been in progress for years.

Katharine Schwab wrote on fastcodesign.com on March 27 2017 (edited):

Since 2012, Henk Hesselink and his team at the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands have been working on a runway design that’s circular instead of straight.

Their so-called Endless Runway Project—funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program, proposes a circular design that would enable planes to take off in the direction most advantageous for them. Namely, the direction without any crosswinds.

As Hesselink tells Co.Design, crosswinds are exactly what they sound like: winds that buffet an airplane from the side as it lands. He was inspired to create a new kind of runway while watching “scary” landing videos online, which show crosswinds in action.

When crosswinds are light, they have no impact on taking off or landing, but when they’re too strong, runways facing perpendicular to the crosswinds have to be shut down entirely—which can seriously impact not just one airport, but the entire network. It’s something that happens frequently near the ocean.

For instance, Hesselink says that the Amsterdam airport often has to switch between runways during durations of bad conditions, and in smaller cities with fewer runways, crosswinds can grind all flights to a complete halt.

But the circular runway system that Hesselink designed, with a diameter of about 2.2 miles and circumference of about 6.9 miles, can accommodate two planes landing simultaneously even when there are bad crosswinds.

That’s because there are always two areas on the ring where the crosswinds will be aligned with the direction of takeoff. In good conditions, three planes can land and take off simultaneously.

The circular runway works almost like a high-speed racetrack or roulette wheel, Hesselink says. If the circular runway were completely flat on the ground, the centrifugal forces would be too great and push the plane off the runway.

But his design is slightly banked, meaning it’s slightly raised on its outer edges to keep the plane on the runway as it gains speed.

For now, the Endless Runway remains a concept where the only testing has been within the safe confines of computer simulation. But Hesselink hopes to test the idea in real life on a racetrack with a drone.

Your thoughts?

Image: Netherlands Aerospace Centre

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Should You Bring Artificial Intelligence Into Your Business?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great potential for most businesses since it can be used to automate many mental tasks taking less than one second of thought. Image recognition is a good example of such a task.

Such automation can be done either today or in the very near future, according to Andrew Ng who is head of global Artificial Intelligence strategy at the Chinese search company Baidu.

Ng draws an analogy between the rise of Artificial Intelligence and the introduction of electricity. Writing in Harvard Business Review in November 2016 he observed:

A hundred years ago electricity transformed countless industries; 20 years ago the internet did, too. Artificial intelligence is about to do the same.

To take advantage, companies need to understand what artificial intelligence can do and how it relates to their strategies. But how should you organize your leadership team to best prepare for this coming disruption?

A hundred years ago, electricity was really complicated. You had to choose between AC and DC power, different voltages, different levels of reliability, pricing, and so on.

And it was hard to figure out how to use electricity: Should you focus on building electric lights? Or replace your gas turbine with an electric motor?

Thus many companies hired a VP of Electricity to help them organize their efforts and make sure each function within the company was considering electricity for its own purposes or its products. As electricity matured, the role went away.

Recently, with the evolution of IT and the internet, we saw the rise of CIOs to help companies organize their information. As IT matures, it is increasingly becoming the CEO’s role to develop their companies’ internet strategy.

Indeed, many S&P 500 companies wish they had developed their internet strategy earlier. Those that did now have an advantage. Five years from now, we will be saying the same about AI strategy.

Ng recommends hiring a Chief AI Officer (CAIO) so that Artificial Intelligence gets applied across all divisions of your company. A CIAO should have the following skills:

Good technical understanding of AI and data infrastructure. In the AI era, data infrastructure — how you organize your company’s databases and make sure all the relevant data is stored securely and accessibly — is important.

Ability to work cross-functionally. AI itself is not a product or a business. Rather, it is a foundational technology that can help existing lines of business and create new products or lines of business.

Strong intrapreneurial skills. AI creates opportunities to build new products, from self-driving cars to speakers you can talk to, that just a few years ago would not have been economical.

A leader who can manage intrapreneural initiatives will increase your odds of successfully creating such innovations for your industry.

Ability to attract and retain AI talent. This talent is highly sought after. Among new college graduates, I see a clear difference in the salaries of students who specialized in AI.

A good Chief AI Officer needs to know how to retain talent, for instance by emphasizing interesting projects and offering team members the chance to continue to build their skill set.

Your thoughts?

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Exponential Technologies – What Are They?

Peter Diamandis is an American engineer, physician and entrepreneur who co-founded Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank providing educational Artificial Intelligenceprograms as well as running a business incubator. 

The university focuses on scientific progress and the development of ‘exponential’ technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality.

The incubator encourages application of these technologies in various fields such as data science, digital biology, medicine and self-driving vehicles.

In his primer on exponential technologies, Peter Diamandis writes (edited):

For a technology to be ‘exponential, its power and/or speed doubles each year, and/or the cost drops by half.

They are technologies which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries and all aspects of our lives.

Diamandis constructed a framework for summarizing the characteristics of exponential technologies. These characteristics are interrelated.

He calls these characteristics the 6 D’s. Here is a summary (edited) and explanation as presented by Vanessa Bates Ramirez writing on SingularityHub.com on November 22 2016:

1. Digitized – it can be programmed

“Anything digitized enters the same exponential growth we see in computing.

Digital information is easy to access, share and distribute. It can be spread at the speed of the internet.

Once something can be represented in ones and zeros – from music to biotechnology – it becomes an information based technology and enters exponential growth.”

2. Deceptive – it is initially slow in developing

“When something starts being digitized, its initial period of growth is deceptive because exponential trends do not seem to grow very fast.

Doubling .01 only gets you .02, then .04, and so on. Exponential growth really takes off after it breaks the whole number barrier.

Then 2 quickly becomes 32, which becomes 32,000 before you know it.”

As an example, artificial intelligence had its origins in research conducted during the Second World War (1939 to 1945) but did not demonstrate its true potential until more than 50 years later in 1997 when IBM’s supercomputer ‘Deep Blue’ defeated world-champion chess player Garry Kasparov.

3. Disruptive – it is more effective and cheaper than what it replaces

“The existing product for a market or service is disrupted by the new market the exponential technology creates because digital technologies outperform in effectiveness and cost.

Once you can stream music on your phone, why buy CDs?

If you can also snap, store and share photographs, why buy a camera and film?”

4. Dematerialized – take something that is physical and re-create it digitally.

“Separate physical products are removed from the equation.

Technologies that were once bulky or expensive – radio, camera, GPS, video, phones, maps – are all now in a smart phone that fits in your pocket.”

As an example, the Sony Walkman, a portable cassette tape player introduced in 1979, allowed people to carry their music with them. Now the same end is accomplished via the iPhone and digitized music.

5. Demonetized – becoming cheaper

“Money is increasingly removed from the equation as the technology becomes cheaper, often to the point of being free.

Software is less expensive to produce than hardware and copies are virtually free.

You can now download any number of apps on your phone to access terabytes of information and enjoy a multitude of services at costs approaching zero.”

6. Democratized – available to everyone, not just the wealthy

“Once something is digitized, more people have access to it. Powerful technologies are no longer only for governments, large organizations or the wealthy.”

If you can buy a cheap phone with an internet connection, you have the same communications capabilities and access to the same platforms as a billionaire.

I think the 6 characteristic D’s of exponential technologies can be summarized even further as:

1. A digitized form of a previous technology
2. Accelerating development of improvements following a slow start
3. More effective and cheaper than what it is displacing and therefore available to everyone

Your thoughts?

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Meet ‘Flippy’ – CaliBurger’s Robot Hamburger Cook

CaliBurger is a California-based hamburger restaurant chain similar to Five Guys, In-N-Out and Shake Shack. It positions itself as a tech company that also sells hamburgers.

While in the restaurant, customers can play games such as GemJump and Minecraft and see the results of interactive in-house gaming amongst its customers displayed on a huge video wall.

Currently, CaliBurger has restaurants in 13 countries including China, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Sweden.

Automation of some jobs is the next step for CaliBurger. Line cooks are the target.

Writing on singularityhub.com, Vanessa Bates Ramirez provides details (edited version):

CaliBurger has partnered with a company called Miso Robotics and developed ‘Flippy’, a robotic kitchen assistant, and recently installed one in their Pasadena, California location.

Flippy the bot is more than just an assembly line robot requiring an organized work space with ingredients being precisely positioned for it to cook hamburgers.

Flippy incorporates the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence software to locate and identify all things that are in its workspace and to learn from its experience through a constant feedback loop.

The bot consists of a cart on wheels with a single six-axis arm providing full range of motion allowing it to perform multiple functions.

It has an assortment of tools such as spatulas, scrapers and tongs which it can change by itself, depending on the task.

Some of the bot’s key tasks include pulling raw patties from a stack and placing them on the grill, tracking each burger’s cook time and temperature, and transferring cooked burgers to a plate.

Sensors on the grill-facing side of the bot take in thermal and 3D data, and multiple cameras help Flippy ‘see’ its surroundings. The bot knows how many burgers it should be cooking at any given time through a system that digitally sends tickets back to the kitchen from the restaurant’s counter.

Nevertheless, a human is required to finish the burger. Flippy alerts human cooks when it’s time to put cheese on a grilling patty. A human is also needed to add sauce and toppings once the patty is cooked, as well as wrap the burgers that are ready to eat.

Two of the bot’s most appealing features for restaurateurs are its compactness and adaptability—it can be installed in front of or next to any standard grill or fryer, which means restaurants can start using Flippy without having to expand or reconfigure their kitchens.

Because this bot ‘machine learns’, it can also learn to prepare other foods on the menu.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, there were 2.3 million chefs in 2014 in the United States; line cooks are included in this figure.

Flippy takes care of jobs around the grill that are repetitive and dangerous due to the possibility of cuts or burns.

I believe many line cooks operating in a repetitive-task environment can and will be replaced by automation. Bots like Flippy are more reliable than humans, can work longer shifts, provide a uniform product and never call in sick. Nor are there any personnel issues.

The argument has been made that destruction of one job will lead to the creation of another job; in the case of robots like Flippy, new tech jobs will certainly be created to manufacture and maintain these devices.

These new jobs require higher levels of technical expertise, things that line cooks cannot be easily re-trained to do.

The prospects for people losing jobs through automation, are not good, particularly for those whose entire skill set has been replaced by an ‘intelligent’ bot.

Your thoughts?

Image courtesy of chiarito at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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